Crit Quad #2: Watercolor Figure Painting

Crit Quad of a watercolor figure painting by Nitya. Art critiques by Prof Clara Lieu and Art Prof Teaching Assistants Alex Rowe, Deepti Menon, and Yves-Olivier Mandereau.

Related Videos
Youtube Playlist: Video Critiques on Art School Admissions Portfolios
Youtube Playlist:  Crit Quickies, 1 min. critiques on artworks
Crit Quad #2: Acrylic Portrait Painting

ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts which provides equal access to high quality art education for people of all ages and means. Imagine all of the resources here on our blog, except exponentially bigger, in greater quantity, and in more detail. Our Kickstarter hit its $30k goal on July 19, 2016.  Get info on our early 2017 site launch by subscribing to our email list.

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New Equipment, Brainstorming, and Learning Together


by Clara Lieu

This past weekend, I got together with Art Prof Teaching Assistants Casey Roonan, Deepti Menon, and Lauryn Welch for an intensive weekend of shooting video, brainstorming, and preparation for the upcoming Art Prof site launch.  Thanks to our Kickstarter campaign, we have been able to purchase essential lighting and sound equipment, and most importantly-a new laptop for me which operates at the speed of light compared to my old laptop which had the functionality of a brick.  This equipment has probably quadrupled our productivity level in terms of shooting high quality video footage.


Although we have been working on Art Prof for two full years now, it’s incredible the way the project keeps growing and progressing.  This past weekend, we learned so much about what we are capable of with this new equipment. While we’re far from a Hollywood movie production, we were really pleased with the quality and quantity of video footage we were able to produce in a short period of time.  We shot intro videos for various sections of the new website, Crit Quads, and clips for our upcoming site launch preview video.


The first budget that Tom and I put together over a year ago was $35,000 a month.  At that point we had a very, very different vision of what we needed to produce the content-this included staff like a professional cameraman and editor, etc.  Now that my Premiere skills are half decent, and with my husband Alex Hart on hand for technical support on set, we’ve learned that on the contrary, we can be very self sufficient with producing the videos-priceless.

We don’t have exact numbers yet, but a super rough estimate is that we will likely be able to produce Art Prof for a fraction of that $35,000 per month that we initially projected, which is huge in terms of keeping Art Prof free. That’s still a bare bones budget that is far from cushy, and we will still have to cut corners in many places,  but what that means is that it’s looking really likely that Art Prof will be able to be free much longer than we initially thought.


We brainstormed like crazy all weekend, it was a rare opportunity for a group of us to get together in person and discuss future events, our site launch, and ideas for future content. Most of the time, our communication between our staff is largely online, and it’s incredible how much faster and efficient things go when you can work together in person.


Shooting in a group is terrific, you can bounce ideas off each other in between takes, get feedback, and come up with spontaneous improvements that we could never have anticipated in advance. Most of the time, many of us shoot videos by ourselves, and we had so much fun this weekend working together. And boy, did we do our share of uncontrollable laughing on set.  (keep an eye out for a Casey blooper reel in the near future!)


In other news, our September Art Dare was an incredible success! We had 56 submissions from artists, and 4 art teachers who assigned the Art Dare to one of their classes. Many artists followed my charcoal drawing tutorial and posted their works in progress as they developed their drawings. We are thrilled with this outcome, check out our October Art Dare!  We would love to see you participate.

For those of you in the Boston area, we are hosting a free portfolio review event in Concord, MA on Sunday, Oct. 23 from 12-4pm. Artists who attend will receive several 15 minute, one-on-one portfolio reviews with our staff. Many artists tell me how difficult it is to find trusted, professional feedback on their artwork, so consider joining us!  This event is free, but advance registration is required to be guaranteed a spot. More info here.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts which provides equal access to high quality art education for people of all ages and means. Imagine all of the resources here on our blog, except exponentially bigger, in greater quantity, and in more detail. Our Kickstarter hit its $30k goal on July 19, 2016.  Get info on our early 2017 site launch by subscribing to our email list.

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Ask the Art Prof: How Do You Learn the Basics of Visual Art and Drawing?

Portrait Drawing

“So I, as many other amateur visual artists, did the worst possible thing when I first started drawing. I didn’t realize the need for studying anatomy, so I plunged out in trying to copy a specific artistic style. This was mainly, I think, because of my young age and my ignorance when it came to “real” art, I was eight years old when drawing really started to mean something to me.  I started drawing because I wanted to give a visual image of my imaginary friends. As I had no friends when I was a child, drawing and making art started to mean more to me than other people. In some ways, it still does.

I’ve always imagined my future to have something to do with art as well. My problem is, though, that even though I’ve drawn and made art for almost ten years now, I have made so little progress compared to most other people. The last year I started getting aware of the fact that I really had to step it up before I could even hope to get into one of my dream schools (CalArts, Art Center College of Art & Design, and RISD). I have made progress, especially when it comes to color use. 
Still, I find myself unable to learn the things I should learn. I can’t seem to pick up what I’m seeing in my studies and I can’t seem to be able to use it in my personal pieces. It’s really scaring me, it seems like I’m unable to learn and progress when it comes to the things that I feel matters – anatomy in particular. I was wondering if you had any tips when it comes to concentrating on learning the “basics”? I’ve heard “draw from life” and “study, study, study” a thousand times before, and as I explained, it doesn’t seem to work for me. What do I need to change? My way of thinking of it, my attitude towards it? I’m at a loss, and I really hope you can help.”

To improve as a visual artist, you need to be rigorously disciplined, have a fierce determination to achieve your goals, have infinite patience, and be willing to put in hours and hours of labor to get there. Being a visual artist is a major physical and mental challenge that many people are not prepared for.  Your mindset is everything.  I’ve seen students in my freshman drawing classes at RISD enter with almost no drawing experience absolutely soar with success because of how determined and disciplined they were.  I’ve also had students with tons of drawing experience bomb because they had a lousy attitude and didn’t want to work hard or try anything new.

Pastel Portrait Drawing Assignment

I think that developing patience is a very, very big part of being able to improve your skills. Many people get frustrated very quickly with art, as if it’s a skill that can be learned overnight. Measure your progress in terms of months rather than days.

You have to make bad work if you want to make good work. See the mistakes you make as required parts of the creative process.  Rather than punishing yourself for making mistakes and/or bad work, embrace the opportunity to learn something new. Don’t get too fixated on specific pieces of art that you make.  Create the work, learn from it, and move on. The more prodigious your production level is, the less attached you’ll be to specific works, and the more willing you will be to experiment and try new things.

Set up a daily schedule for yourself so that you are drawing from direct observation at least 2 hours every day, and do this for at least 3 months.  There is no way that you could be on that rigorous of a schedule for that long and not improve.   This may sound blunt, but if you feel you don’t have the time, and can’t manage this schedule, then I have doubts about how serious you really are about being an artist.

If you’re looking for some structure in terms of what to draw, I would recommend purchasing the book “Drawing: Structure and Vision.” There are a lot of really hokey drawing books out there; this book is the real thing. Written by two of my RISD colleagues, Fritz Drury and Joanne Stryker,  the book covers all of the fundamentals of drawing and provides excellent historical and contemporary examples. There are also drawing assignments and examples of student drawings throughout the book.  All in all, a worthwhile investment that will provide you some kind of reference to work from.

Drawing, Structure and Vision
Understand that this task you’re assigning yourself is going to be hard.  Really hard. Expect to be frustrated, and yes, there will some tears. Accept that you are in it for the long haul.  This is where tenacity and perseverance need to kick in.  Develop a thick skin, toughen your mind, and push through the difficult moments.  If you want this badly enough, you can make it happen.

ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts which provides equal access to art education for people of all ages and means.

Be notified of our early 2017 site launch by subscribing to our email list.


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Portfolio Video Critiques for Art Students & Artists
Prof Clara Lieu offers 30 minute video critiques on 8-20 artworks for students working on a portfolio for art school admission, and for artists of any age working on their artwork. Watch a sample below, and get more info here.

Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories, and post select submissions on our Instagram  and other sites throughout the month. Use #artprofwip and Prof Clara Lieu might just stop by and give you some feedback! We have a special prize for art teachers who assign the Art Dare to one of their classes. More info is here.

Ask the Art Prof Live was a weekly live video broadcast on our Facebook page where Prof Clara Lieu provided professional advice for art students and professional artists. Ask the Art Prof began as a written column in 2013 and was featured in the Huffington Post from 2013-2015.  See the full archive of columns here. Prof Lieu discussed being an artist today, art technique & materials, work strategies for artists, career advice, teaching art, and more.